The Wrecker (novel)

The Wrecker (1892) is a novel written by Robert Louis Stevenson in collaboration with his stepson Lloyd Osbourne. The story is a 'sprawling, episodic adventure story, a comedy of brash manners and something of a detective mystery'. It revolves around the abandoned wreck of the Flying Scud at Midway Island. Clues in a stamp collection are used to track down the missing crew and solve the mystery. It is only in the last chapter that different story elements become linked.

"The Wrecker", an episode of Roy Huggins' TV Western Maverick (1957) starring James Garner and Jack Kelly, is described in the closing credits as "From a Novel by Robert Louis Stevenson & Lloyd Osbourne". The Maverick brothers have bought the wreck of the Flying Scud at an auction and the plot involves trying to discover why so many people want to get their hands on the cargo.

Stevenson described it as a ‘South Sea yarn’ concerning ‘a very strange and defective plan that was accepted with open eyes for what seemed countervailing opportunities offered’. Although the book sold well, reviews were mixed, with a The New York Times reviewer concluding that:

The Wrecker is a kind of blank-cartridge romance with a big explosion, which raises a dust, and if anything really has happened it escapes you in the flash and the cloud of smoke.

The different loosely connected stories reflected how Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne wrote the book. Each contributed different sections but agreeing to develop characters and descriptions of places they both knew well. The following are examples:

  • The schooner Equator (1888–1953) inspired the story. Its remains are preserved in a shed at Marina Park at the Port of Everett, Washington.
  • Jack Buckland, (grandson of William Thomas Buckland, the Wraysbury auctioneer; born 1864, Sydney; died 1897, Suwarrow Island), the handsome happy-go-lucky fellow cabin passenger of Lloyd Osbourne and Robert Louis Stevenson on the 1890 Janet Nicholl voyage,. who inspired the ‘Remittance Man' character Tommy Hadden.